It seems that more and more libraries and museums are finally realizing how to use the power of the Internet to give people greater access to their collections. Or at least they are finally getting the money they need to make it happen.
Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum just received a $265,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to digitize 113 medieval Flemish manuscripts. No small task when those manuscripts total “45,000 pages of text with over 3,000 pages of illumination.” And remember, every manuscript is inherently one of a kind, so for non-nerds: think of each one of these manuscripts — each page, even — as essentially a previously unreleased track by whatever awesome dead musician people who don’t spend all their free time memorizing constellations and identifying fonts are listening to these days. But instead of the whole thing coming out as a prohibitively-priced boxed set, it’s made available for free to everyone with an Internet connection.
Eventually, the Walters hopes to have digitized all of its 850 medieval manuscripts. And it’s already been the recipient of two other grants from the NEH to translate their Islamic, English, German, Armenian, Dutch, Byzantine, and Ethiopian manuscripts into ones and zeros, so looks like some day we’ll get there!
You can view the manuscripts they’ve already digitized at art.thewalters.org